Thursday, May 08, 2003

Confidence (IMDB) (Netflix)
As Wall Street, dot-com'ers, and grifters all know, there's a sucker born every minute, waiting to be fleeced. The marks just need a little bit of greed to set the hook, and you just have to anticipate the contingencies. The only fatal error is reeling in a minnow that's actually a shark. Ed Burns does just that, unwittingly bilking The King (played by Dustin Hoffman), a guy you don't want to cross. Now he's got to make up for his unwise target selection. The movie starts fast, with Burns lying in a pool of blood, then relies on flashbacks to show how he got that way.

Burns is one of those hyphenates—writer-director-actor—who should stick to just acting. His own creations tend to be self-absorbed and talky, and given his paint-scraper voice, all the more grating. He's balanced here by a colorful assemblage of character actors, plus Hoffmann, who's a leading man in a character actor's brain, and Andy Garcia, whose careers has leaned toward the soulful pretty boy. Both clearly relish the opportunity to play offbeat parts, but Garcia does a far better job as a sleazy Customs agent, and Hoffmann goes wildly over the top (apropo of almost nothing: when Method acting devotee Hoffmann was ostentatiously struggling to nail a scene in Marathon Man, an exasperated but well-meaning Sir Lawrence Olivier asked "have you tried acting?"). Confidence works through slick direction, photography and editing, and by gutting the story through like a burglar; eventually winning you over. Not as charming as 2001's Ocean's Eleven, nor as classy as this year's The Good Thief—just a service-able con game flick.